L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is iconic French Chef Joel Robuchon’s more accessible dining concept. First opening in Tokyo in 2003, there are now 11 Robuchon Ateliers around the world. I had the pleasure of dining at their Hong Kong location which opened in 2006 and has held three Michelin stars since 2010.
The Atelier (which means studio in French) concept brings a more communal approach to dining and to restaurant design. There is a central, open kitchen surrounded by counter seating. It allows diners to see the cooking, plating and serving process for their own meals and for those of other diners. The counter and kitchen are surrounded by high tables and bar seating, without a formal dining room. It encourages interaction, allows diners to see the whole process and encourages them to observe and maybe order other things they see around them.
I experienced an amazing eleven-course chef’s tasting dinner last fall at the height of white truffle season. The food was just flawless, in taste, freshness, creativity and presentation and it was great to experience the Atelier’s smaller tapas-style portions. It made the eleven courses, with wine pairings, quite manageable.
Dinner started with Sologne Imperial caviar, served on a beautiful gold plate atop lobster bisque, perfectly covered with tiny dollops of cauliflower cream. It truly was almost too beautiful to eat (pic is at the top of this post). Next up was some rich, pan-fried duck foie gras, served with grapes and ginger. It had a delicate texture but was really intense and rich. A soup with lobster raviolis was next, followed by a small portion of pan-fried sea bass with a lemongrass foam and stewed baby leeks. So many flavors and textures, it was amazing.
Next was free-range quail with more foie gras, served with a bowl of the restaurant’s signature buttery, creamy mashed potatoes. This was followed by what could be considered the main course, pan-seared Japanese A3 Wagyu beef with aromatic arugula salad. Dessert was next, first a beautifully plated (on a special edition art plate with an image of praying hands on it) Cassis dome, made of red fruits and pear jelly. It was topped with a tiny piece of 24K gold foil. This was followed by a second dessert course, a chesnut mousse with a crispy coffee tuile with some lime ice cream.
After dinner, I had a chance to sit down with L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong’s executive chef, David Alves. Although Chef Robuchon creates the menu and visits the restaurant a few times a year, Chef Alves is responsible for the day-to-day operation and food. He has some flexibility on the menu but always remembers diners are there to experience Joel Robuchon cuisine.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong is in Central and is open every day for lunch and dinner. In Hong Kong, Robuchon also has Le Jardin (more formal dining in a garden setting), Le Salon de The’ (a tea salon serving teas, coffees and snacks) and Le Cafe’ (a more casual cafe concept with full meals), all in the same building complex.